|Posted on April 4, 2012 at 5:35 PM||comments (59)|
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits all housing providers from discriminating against persons with a disability. The Fair Housing Act covers most housing – single family houses, apartment complexes, mobile home parts, condominiums, retirement communities, cooperatives, time shares, senior housing, boarding houses, residential hotels, group homes, and assisted living facilities. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
According to this Act, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Examples of impairments include mobility and cognitive impairments, vision, hearing, AIDS or HIV infection, mental illness, learning disabilities, head injury, asthma, chronic fatigue, or history of alcoholism or drug addiction. Disability does not include current use of or addiction to illegal drugs.
The Fair Housing Act protects all housing applicants, buyers, and tenants with disabilities as well as anyone associated with them, such as family members. It requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications so that people with disabilities can use and enjoy housing on an equal basis. A housing provider does have the right to request proof of the disability (a doctor’s note should suffice) and how the requested accommodation or modification would increase that individual's safety and comfort.
Reasonable accommodations are those changes to policies, rules, or practices that persons with disabilities may need in order to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home. For example, waiving a no pet rule for a guide dog, or creating a reserved parking space near the building entrance for someone who is mobility impaired.
A reasonable modification is any physical change to a rental unit, condo, co-op, or common space that is needed for an individual’s full enjoyment of his/her home. Generally speaking, a modification is considered reasonable when it is practical and realistic and linked to a particular disability. Here are some examples of reasonable modifications:
Installing grab bars in the bathroom
Installing a ramp at the building’s entrance or front door
Installing lever doorknobs and faucets
Converting a tub to a curb-less shower
Lowering shelves or kitchen counter tops
It is each person’s responsibility to pay and arrange for whatever modifications they are requesting. A housing provider can require a deposit to be used to restore the unit back to its original condition when it’s time to be rented or sold. They can also require architectural drawings showing that the work complies with all state and local building codes.
If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file as soon as possible.
What to Tell HUD:
|Posted on March 25, 2012 at 4:38 PM||comments (28)|
In September, the Census reported that almost a third of households were “doubled up,” meaning more than one generation of adults were living under one roof. All in all, 61.7 million adults, or 27.7 percent, were doubled-up in 2007, rising to 69.2 million, or 30.0 percent, in 2011.
The AARP Public Policy Institute also confirmed multi-generational homes are on the rise in the United States, reporting there were roughly one-half million more households that were multi-generational in 2010 than in 2009, and that in the past two years, the number of multi generational households grew faster than in any other two-year period since 2000, coinciding largely with the recession of the past few years.
For a variety of reasons, both cultural and economic, families today are rethinking their housing needs. Adults are living together with their grandparents, in-laws, or grown children who are not economically ready to move out. Particularly for those who want a comfortable way to look after elderly parents, multi-generational living is an appropriate solution. Parents can comfortably live near their caregivers, while still providing independence and privacy for everyone.
As a result, builders are receiving more requests to build in-law suites or, as the term is starting to emerge, to “turn one house into two.”
An in-law addition can be built just as any other home addition, can be purchased as a modular unit that’s then attached to your home or set on your property, or can be built in a garage (attached or detached). These suites typically are on a single level and usually comprised of a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and a small living room area. In-law additions need to include extra amenities so as to allow for aging in place, such as wider hallways and doorways, no step entrances, extra room in front of bathroom and kitchen cabinetry, grab bars, levered handled door knobs, comfort height toilets, and curb-less showers.
You can find in-law home addition plans in magazines and on the Internet that can often meet your requirements. If building new, expect to pay around $110 to $130 per square foot for construction. And while a remodel or addition can make the cost of an in-law prohibitive for some homeowners, it can be less expensive than the money required for long-term care for aging relatives in a facility - and a potential source of income down the road.
Before getting too involved in the idea however, check with your municipality to find out how your local zoning and building codes affect this type of addition. There may be zoning issues to having two separate residences on the same building lot, or special features that the addition must include, like separate utility services, as mandated by code.
|Posted on March 18, 2012 at 3:05 PM||comments (47)|
Question: I plan to renovate my guest room and bath for my elderly mother who frequently comes to visit. I had intended to remove the bathtub in that bathroom and install a walk in shower for her but she prefers a bathtub over a shower so I’m now uncertain what to do. I don’t want to spend money renovating the bathroom only to have to renovate again in the future. Are there bathtubs that work with the idea of aging in place or should I try to convince her that a walk in shower is the better long term choice?
Answer: Walk in showers are great for everyone, young and old, but there are a few bathtub options that will also work for your mother and are designed for aging in place.
There are walk in tubs that you get into through a door in the tub wall. Once inside the tub, the door latches shut and seals tightly so you can fill the tub with water. There are a number of manufacturers offering walk in tubs with varied features, such as hand sprays, grab bars, anti scald valves, locking mechanisms, hydro jets, etc. Not all walk-in tubs are the equal so it’s important to research what each manufacturer has to offer. There are tubs with inward swinging doors and those with outward swing. There are larger tubs and smaller tubs to suit different areas of the home. There are tubs with dual drainage systems, presumably to drain water faster, and those with single drains. You can easily familiarize yourself with these products by researching online. Walk in tubs are also not flush to the bathroom floor so while they only present a small step, there still is a need to step over a small threshold in order to enter the tub. The big negative to a walk in tub is that you can’t get out of the tub until all the water drains out. So if this is the option you choose, I’d suggest also installing a heat lamp above the tub to take the chill off while waiting for the tub to drain.
A less costly option is a standard tub that has a ledge built into the side. Rather than climbing over the tub wall (a task that gets increasingly difficult as we age), you sit on the ledge and swing your legs into the tub. Some bathtub manufacturers are now including an option for grab bars to help with getting up and down in the tub. Alternately, grab bars could be mounted on the wall within easy reach when sitting in the tub.
If your tub is in good shape or you do not want to replace it at this time, there are bath lifts that fit right into the tub and raise and lower into the bath via a remote control. The only problem with this option is that you’re basically dedicating your tub to bathing and not showering because the lifts are too cumbersome to be taken in and out of a tub easily. For that reason, you might consider adding a hand held shower head low enough on the wall so as to be reachable while sitting in the tub.
Of course we cannot predict what's physically in store for any of us as we age. If built properly, walk-in or curb-less showers are an optimal solution because one could easily get into the shower in a wheelchair, if necessary. But then again, not all curb-less in showers are equal either. All too many "curb-less" showers are built with 4"-6" curbs, which doesn't really solve any problem for someone who can't step over a threshold or manage a step. The other issue has to do with size. I recently was asked to redesign a curb-less shower that replaced a 29" x 59" bathtub. The space was so constrained that it was impossible for the owner, a large man in a large wheelchair, to comfortably maneuver the shower space and keep water in the shower rather than all over the bathroom.
Recommended minimum dimensions for a residential walk in shower are 36" width x 60" length. 42" width is better and 48" width is ideal. However, there are people who prefer larger showers and others who need assistance while bathing. A shower 5 feet by 5 feet allows enough space for a person in a shower wheelchair and an aide. So if you're working against space constraints and don't have sufficient room to build a shower that meets minimum requirements, a curb-less shower is not the answer and one of the tub options might, in fact, be best.
|Posted on March 11, 2012 at 6:53 PM||comments (40)|
|Posted on March 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM||comments (49)|
If you live an hour or more away from a person who needs care, you can think of yourself as a long-distance caregiver. This kind of care can take many forms -- from helping with finances or money management to arranging for in-home care; from providing respite care for a primary caregiver to creating a plan in case of emergencies. Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of new needs, including home health aides, insurance benefits and claims, housing requirements, medications, and durable medical equipment.
The National Institute on Aging estimates that approximately 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers. And while economic factors are forcing people to move away from their families and hometowns, lifespans are lengthening leaving many of the elderly without family caregivers nearby. Shifting demographics exacerbate the problem. Over the next four decades, the number of people 65 and older is expected to grow, while the number of people aged 20 to 64, those most responsible for care giving duties, will hold steady.
I recently read an article by Matt Sedensky entitled Elderly Parents: Caring for Aging Parents Long Distance in which he interviews Lynn Feinberg, a care giving expert at AARP. Though care giving is a major stress on anyone, distance can often magnify it, Feinberg said, and presents particular difficulty when it must be balanced with an inflexible job. “It’s a huge stress,” she said. “It can have enormous implications not only for someone’s quality of life, but also for someone’s job.”
Without question long distance care giving is a difficult task. It can certainly be a burden financially. As last surveyed, annual expenses incurred by long-distance caregivers averaged about $9,000, far more than caregivers who lived close to their loved one. Some caregivers had to cut back on work hours, take on debt of their own, and slash their personal spending in order to help another. Emotionally, people are left feeling as if they are split in two trying to maintain their family and work routines as they dash across country to deal with real and imagined emergencies. To say the least, it’s exhausting.
So what do people do when faced with the situation? Most long-distance caregivers create a patchwork of resources they rely on to manage the situation. They make sure to keep in touch on a daily basis via phones and video calls. Relatives or close friends living nearby are enlisted to check on the elderly family member to make sure all is ok. Local service providers and agencies are brought into the picture when any of the benefits they offer match the individual’s needs. And for those who can afford it, professionals are hired to handle many necessary tasks like grocery shopping, driving, cooking and bill paying.
There is no simple solution when trying to care for someone at a distance, but being proactive and investigating local resources to plan for those inevitable emergencies will certainly help reduce stress. Successful long distance caregivers set in place a network and establish routines that minimize the need for those rushed trips across country.
|Posted on February 24, 2012 at 7:27 AM||comments (43)|
Question: My aunt is 78 years old and lives in a two story home. She is starting to have difficulty managing the stairs up to her bedroom and bathroom due to a developing arthritic condition. She intends to stay in her home for as long as she can but does not have the funds for any major remodeling. Would a stair chair make sense and how much do they cost?
Answer: Installing a stair lift chair is certainly a practical solution that can be a cost-effective alternative to remodeling, depending on the configuration of the staircase. For example, if the staircase is straight, has no turns, and is not particularly narrow, you can expect the cost to run between $3500 and $4500 including installation. On the other hand, if your aunt’s staircase is curved, or there are other factors that might make installing the stair chair lift more difficult, the cost can rise significantly. Stair lifts do come in varying models with varying price tags, so researching the features offered in different models is important to controlling the cost.
Stair lifts can be rented and can also be purchased pre-owned. And while Medicare does not cover the cost of this equipment, there might be some federal funds available for this type of home modification. Your local Area Agency on Aging might have additional information on fund availability. For more detailed information on stair lifts, read our blog on Managing Stairs
Question: Are there cell phones that are easier for seniors to use? My mother often doesn’t hear her phone ring and never seems to remember how to retrieve her voicemail.
Answer: Many older people have trouble with cell phones because they are too complex to navigate, are not intuitive, and have screens too small to read. There are a few, however, that have been designed specifically for the senior market. Here are just two that are available:
Just5 was designed for seniors or people with hearing or eyesight problems. This phone is simple yet very attractive and well designed. Features include big buttons for easy dialing, a “speaking” keypad, which confirms the buttons pressed, an emergency button, amplified sound, simple keyboard lock and a long lasting battery. There are no confusing menus, options or settings to frustrate the user. The phone itself is approximately $120, monthly fees are low, and there are no contracts required.
The Emporia Life Plus was designed for easy reading and the buttons and keypad are easy to use. The phone is meant to be used closed most of the time. The default screen is the contact list, so there is no menu navigation when you want to call someone; just arrow down to the number and hit the big green button. There is a large emergency button on the back of the phone. Once pressed, it will dial up to 5 numbers that can be programmed into it. As an added bonus, this phone will run off AAA batteries when the Li-Ion battery runs down. It offers speakerphone and text messaging as well.
|Posted on February 19, 2012 at 10:21 AM||comments (118)|
There’s so much new technology in the marketplace aimed at the aging in place market that’s it’s difficult to keep up. Every few months though, I spend time researching some of the newest software and gadgets that have recently made their debut - specifically those designed to help seniors living on their own and their remote caregivers keep in touch.
Not surprisingly there has been a growing number of applications available for use with smartphones and tablets. Here are a couple:
SwannView is a video monitoring solution that works on virtually any Smartphone or Tablet without the need for a computer or webcam. The Swann Security kit (cost: $449) includes four color cameras and a digital video recorder to record up to 30 days of video from all four cameras simultaneously. SwannView works over wi-fi or cellular connectivity on an Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or any Windows device so you can remotely log in to see a live, real time view. The cameras are easily mountable and have an infrared LED night vision feature that allows you to see up to 65 feet in the dark. You can set this kit up to send you an email if the cameras detect motion.
The iCam app for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (cost: $4.99) allows you to monitor multiple live video and audio feeds over Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. With a computer and a webcam, you can visually check- in to make sure all is well. You can also set up the app to notify you when motion is detected.
Many seniors who live independently often use a medical alert system to get help in an emergency such as falling. The problem is that in the past, the majority of these systems only worked within range of a home based receiving system. When a person was out of their home, they no longer had on-the-go access to emergency assistance.
Today’s fall detection devices include fall detection that works away from home and allows other family members to monitor the whereabouts of the wearer using GPS tracking. ActiveCare’s Personal Assistance Link (PAL) is a handset offering a range of features to assist people who want to continue living independently. The device, which connects via a cellular network, includes a one-click help button to call for 24/7 assistance, a built in fall detector that’s monitored remotely, and GPS. The PAL offers one touch communication to Care Specialists from anywhere at anytime. It looks like a cell phone but is easier to operate with large buttons and quick one-touch access to family and the 24/7 Care Center. (Cost:$180 activation fee, $60/month service charge)
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of American along with Breadcrumb LLC recently announced a state of the art locater device and caregiver-friendly monitoring system. This innovative new tracking device – BC 300 GPS Device – is designed specifically for the dementia population and aimed at immediately and precisely pinpointing a person’s whereabouts. .The BC300 system works by setting up a virtual fence around a person’s residence and/or other locations, such as a relative’s home or an adult day care center, and sends an alert when the wearer leaves that zone. As one of the smallest, most lightweight tracking devices on the market, the BC300 is strapped around a person’s ankle with a heavy duty band. Designed with the symptoms of dementia in mind, including memory loss, confusion and other cognitive loss, the device is not dependent on the user’s activation. Caregivers can access the wearer’s real time location 24/7 on a Google map via computer or smartphone. In the event the person wearing the locating device leaves a designated safety zone, an alert is sent to the Breadcrumb Customer Care Center--as well as up to five caregivers and if necessary, the proper authorities are contacted . (Cost: $190, $38/mo service charge)
As more and more families are caring for older relatives, the need for better ways to share sensitive health information has become obvious. There's many types of information to track, for eg. emergency contacts, details about care-related services or treatments, legal and financial documents, all of which family members in multiple locations may need access to.
This past week, CareZone, launched it's new site offering a way to share and manage information associated with caring for another individual. You set up a profile about the person receiving care, list their current medications, sketch out to do lists, add any relevant contacts, share notes and upload files. As the creator of a profile you can give others access which you can also revoke at any time. You might give access to family members who share caregiving responsibilities, professional caregivers or medical staff. The company plans to charge $5/month or $48/yr for each person for whom care is provided. As an introductory offer you can sign up for free until March 15th.
|Posted on February 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM||comments (30)|
For those who live in condos and are looking to make aging-in-place renovations, there are special considerations to be taken into account when planning a project.
For any renovation that would require a permit, the condo association must grant approval. The documentation required for review varies according to each association, but usually includes a description of your project, associated drawings or plans, and information on your contractor, including certificates of insurance.
Your first step then is to find out about the approval process either through the condo association directly or via the management company of the building. They not only can supply you with a list of submittals required and rules for renovation, but also the dates when the association meets for plan review.
From my experience, the most stringent requirements imposed by condo associations have to do with restricted work hours. Their biggest concern is that your neighbors are not inconvenienced by the work being done in your home. Many condo associations also impose additional restrictions on the contractor, such as what entrance and elevators can be used, where parking is allowed, procedures for debris removal, areas for material storage, etc. Make sure you give this information to any contractor pricing your job. It’s important they understand the restrictions so as to be able to set up an orderly approach (and realistic costs) for your renovation.
It makes common sense that it may be difficult to obtain approval for any structural changes to your condo considering that your condo is only one unit tied to the structure of an entire building. Often there are hidden utilities behind walls and over ceilings that feed other units. Even if approved, structural changes may be prohibitive when compared to similar renovations to a single family home.
Keep in mind that each association is different in their requirements so do not rely on assumptions from a contractor or be intimated by stories from friends living in other locations.
And while it may seem like an additional burden and a frustrating delay to have to go through your association’s approval process, if you understand an association’s requirements before committing to a remodeling project, you’ll save yourself both time and money in the long run.
|Posted on February 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM||comments (43)|
Many of us are facing the similar issue of getting our aging parent(s) to acknowledge that they need some help in their home. More often than not it’s a frustrating “locking of horns” as we try to persuade our parent that it is no longer safe or feasible for them to live without assistance, whether it’s help with cleaning and cooking, bill paying, driving, or any of the normal activities of daily living.
The difficulty starts in even knowing how to approach the subject, let alone meeting all their ready objections. Denial and control are the key elements here, so the objections are multiple and range from “I’m don’t need any help” to “I don’t want to spend the money.” I’ve had seniors who have been hospitalized for falling, tell me that they know for certain they will not fall again and therefore do not need non-slip flooring or grab bars. They simply will be more careful.
Recently I spoke with a daughter, who lives in California, about installing some additional safety aides for her father, a 99 yr old living in Florida. Her dad had been hospitalized three or four times in the past year for falling and yet refused to use a walker or allow grab bars to be installed in his home. As she explained to me, “If there was nothing to help him, that’s one thing. But I’m starting to resent having to drop everything to jump on a plane and fly cross country to the hospital when there are options that would help prevent his falls.”
My sister, brother, and I have had numerous conversations about the best way to broach the topic with our own parents. We’ve debated whether, out of respect we should only gently press an issue or, out of concern we should push forward to do what needs to be done. I’ve had similar discussions with the adult kids of my clients. At some point or another, everyone struggles with how long to beat around the bush before taking control and forcing a solution.
I’ve spoken to case managers, clinical social workers, psychologists and gerontologists for some expert guidance in this matter. Their compounded wisdom suggests we consider the following when trying to help our aging parents:
First, don’t barge in and dictate that which you think needs to be done. Find a quiet time to talk with your parent and explain why you are concerned. Encourage their response, stay open minded, and listen carefully.
Make the conversation positive and emphasize that if they are proactive and act before there is a crisis, they stand a better chance of retaining control and independence.
Find out how you can help them by understanding what options they might be considering and what their objectives are.
Do not push them to accept your assessment but rather give them sufficient time to form their own conclusions.
Be prepared to prioritize and negotiate the changes you believe need to be made.
Use trusted advisers or other family members for support. Sometimes it just takes the right person or personality to allow for a dialogue without emotionality or defensiveness.
Don’t just state the problem – help them find solutions. Do some research in advance so that you know what resources and agencies are available in their community. Obtain contact information, brochures, financial costs, etc. so that your conversation with your parents can be realistic.
Most often there’s more than one way to handle any given situation. Your parents may be far more ready to listen if you can present a variety of choices to them, allowing them to make the decision for their own well being.
|Posted on January 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM||comments (127)|
Handi-Treads ™non slip stair strips are an outdoor aluminum non slip surface designed to ensure safety and protection against stairway accidents and injuries. They can be used on any material including wood, concrete, masonry or ramps. They are inexpensive, easy to install, and are a good solution for areas where water, ice, snow and sand can make walking slippery and dangerous. The anti slip strip not only improves traction but also provides a visual and tactile cue to be careful and slow down.
Handi-Treads™ feature a lifetime residential warranty and start at $7.95 each, depending on size. Standard sizes are as follows, although custom sizes are available:
1. 1.875” X 30” strips
2. 3.75” x 30” stair treads
3. 3.75” x 48” stair treads
4. 2.75” x 12” stair nosings
5. 6" x 30" stair nosings
6. 9" x 30" stair nosings
Treads come standard in a plain aluminum, anodized clear coat, powder coated black, powder coated safety yellow, and powder coated brown. Custom colors are also available (additional charges will apply).
These non slip treads are 100% aluminum, manufactured from an OSHA approved material and have been used on ADA compliant ramp surfaces for many years. The aluminum never rusts and requires little maintenance.